(Reuters) - Two members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot who were jailed for nearly two years on charges of religious hatred and became international emblems for human rights campaigners will appear at a concert in New York, organizer Amnesty International said on Tuesday.
Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova will make their first trip to the United States since they were granted amnesty in December by Russian President Vladimir Putin, two months before they were set to be released.
Alyokhina, 25, and Tolokonnikova, 24, were convicted in 2012 of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred after they stormed the altar of Moscow’s biggest cathedral and beseeched the Virgin Mary to rid Russia of Putin.
“A month ago we were freed from Russian prison camps,” Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova said in a joint statement. “We will never forget what it’s like to be in prison after a political conviction. We have vowed to continue helping those who remain behind bars and we hope to see you all at the Amnesty International concert on February 5th in Brooklyn!”
It is not clear whether Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova will perform at the “Bringing Human Rights Home” concert featuring rock groups The Flaming Lips, Imagine Dragons and R&B singer Lauryn Hill.
Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova derided their early release last year as a propaganda stunt by Putin to improve Russia’s image before it hosts the Winter Olympics in February.
Putin, who denies jailing people for political reasons, has said the amnesty would show that the Russian state is humane.
Tolokonnikova staged a hunger strike last year to draw attention to stark conditions and long hours of mandatory labor in the jail where she was held.
A third Pussy Riot member, Yekaterina Samutsevich, was freed when a judge suspended her sentence on appeal.
Reporting by Eric Kelsey; editing by Mary Milliken and Andrew Hay